While Pierre Gauthier did make some minor adjustments to the lineup over this summer, it surely doesn’t compare to last season’s warehouse sale. The team’s top-6 will likely stay intact but the bottom-6 sees some new faces joining the team with several spots potentially up for grabs. Here’s a preview of the Habs forwards for the coming season:
Tomas Plekanec: I’m a huge fan of this hardworking, honest-to-a-fault, productive center. Coming off a great 70-point season, and secure with his six-year deal,
Plekanec will not rest on the back of his skates. I am anticipating another great season from
him, and I sincerely hope that the line he centers will be more successful (I’m looking at you, Andrei). If there is one thing I’d love for
Plekanec to perfect, it would be his decision-making of when to shoot and when to pass. His give-and-go with Cammalleri was a thing of beauty this past season, but it didn’t work as well with Kostitsyn.
Speaking of which, Andrei Kostitsyn has a lot to make up for. Whether it was his brother causing him to lose focus, or an injury, all eyes (at least, those who haven’t written him off already) will be on him to finally wake up and perform on a constant, steady basis. If he can find a way to produce consistently, we would all be a lot more tolerant of a) his
$3.25M cap hit and b) when he has an off-night (inevitable, by the way, in my books at least). We would all love for Andrei to work out here in Montreal and make a difference, especially when we know he can. Case in point Game 2 against the Caps, where he scored a seemingly effortless hat trick, only to revert to his non-factor presence for the rest of the playoffs.
Mike Cammalleri was an integral part of the Canadiens postseason success. Scoring game after game, providing most of the offence, surprising everyone, he was the consistent, even-tempered forward with a jedi-like pre-game ritual that fascinated many. It will be very exciting to see what he does this season. After all, if he hadn’t missed 17 games with a knee injury, and been slow to bounce back (another 12 games before netting one), he most likely would have hit the 40-goal mark. Cammy has made his home in Montreal, and loves playing here. Those beautiful goals, understated celebrations and love for the game make him a joy to watch every night.
12 goals and 47 assists for Scott Gomez, whose cap hit is the highest on the team, is not going to cut it. However, in his defence, it seemed to take him much longer than the other new arrivals to get the feel of playing in Montreal. When he finally got his legs he was a force to be reckoned with. For the last 20 games of the regular season and the entire playoff run he showed true leadership qualities, goading and challenging his teammates to win at all cost. Should he be able to continue that this season he will almost be worth his salary. I do think he’ll surpass his numbers this year, perhaps his new number 11 being a lucky charm.
What can I say about Brian Gionta that hasn’t been said already? Expect another intense, productive year from this guy, who, incidentally, is just one-and-a-half inches taller than me.
When the team traded Guillaume Latendresse for Benoit Pouliot, we all thought: ‘okay, thank goodness he‘s gone. And Pouliot’s got a lot of upside.’ Never mind how disappointing Pouliot’s numbers are, the argument still stands. We were a better team once Guillaume flew to
Minnesota and we’re still better now with his replacement than we were before. Yes, Pouliot can definitely improve, and I believe he will. He was injured, he was coming from a place where his ice time was a joke, and adjusting was difficult. To me, this means he is desperate to have a good season. Forget about Latendresse’s explosive arrival in Minny last year: this is the real test. Who do you think will emerge as the better of the two? Yeah, I thought so. Prove me right, Pouliot.
Now here’s where it gets tricky. The top two lines are the same as when the season ended. The bottom two is where the tinkering took place, so let’s take a look at possible options:
While Lars Eller will probably start the year centering the third line, I expect he will replace
Kostitsyn. or Pouliot in the top-6 before long. In which case, the third line will be Maxim Lapierre, Travis Moen and Tom Pyatt.
We don’t know much about Eller, but in the seven games he played for St. Louis, he scored two nice goals and seems very promising.
Lapierre needs to have a huge bounce-back season which he should have given that
Latendresse is gone and his injury should be healed by now. He’s had a couple of very high and very low seasons and must become more consistent in order to have any real lasting success.
Travis Moen comes as advertised: hard-nosed player, tough-as-nails. How can we forget how he missed just one game and came back to play with 50 stitches over his eye? That’s dedication. This year, with
Laraque gone, I think Moen should step up and protect his teammates like we know he can.
Tom Pyatt was a complete revelation in the playoffs. He started off as an almost-invisible rookie at -9 with no points. Fans were about to write him off as another D’Agostini or Maxwell. Then, suddenly, he became arguably our best forward on the PK, especially in the playoffs. He had a huge impact on the ice and together with Lapierre and Dominic Moore (who will be missed) that line came into great use in the postseason. If he can continue to play like that this season and put up some numbers, he’ll be here for a long time.
Dustin Boyd is coming here with a great attitude and if he’s half as
tough as the previous #17 then he’ll be a great addition.
I don’t know what role Mathieu Darche will play on this team. His skill and presence came into great use in the later half of he season but he only played in a few of the playoff games and was not very successful. He seemed unsuited and unable to perform at that level.
With today’s signing of veteran Jeff Halpern, the possibility of Max Pacioretty or Ryan White making the team straight out of camp seems a vanishing possibility. He will lend his leadership and experience to the team while taking up virtually no cap space. An interesting addition, given our logjam of centers now (does this mean Eller will not start in Montreal?) but a good deal nonetheless.
Now, let’s drop the puck already and see what this team can accomplish!